Why Blackbelt?

“Oppressed people resist by identifying themselves as subjects, by defining their reality, shaping their new identity, naming their history, telling their story." –bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins)

Blackbelt shares stories from and about Black folk down South.

Too often, “Southern culture” is limited to the experiences of white Southerners – such as the Confederacy, country music, and monograms. Although more than half of Black Americans live in the South and have contributed greatly to the Southern way of life we hold so dear, we are often omitted from the South’s larger narrative.

OK, but why “Blackbelt,” though?

First of all, this site has nothing to do with martial arts.

The “Black Belt” originally described a region in Alabama characterized by its rich, dark, fertile soil. Eventually the phrase grew to represent places throughout the South where Black residents make up a majority of the population. Booker T. Washington explained it this way:

The term was first used to designate a part of the country which was distinguished by the color of the soil. The part of the country possessing this thick, dark, and naturally rich soil was, of course, the part of the South where the slaves were most profitable, and consequently they were taken there in the largest numbers. Later and especially since the war, the term seems to be used wholly in a political sense—that is, to designate the counties where the black people outnumber the white.
–Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery

Building upon both definitions of the Black Belt, our Blackbelt propagates the richness of Black Southern culture. Through first-person “Call+Response” interviews and thought-provoking essays, Blackbelt shares stories from and about Black folk down South.

Blackbelt is not confined to the Black Belt proper; our goal is to seek out narratives from and about people of the African diaspora living in Washington, D.C. and the 16 states that make up the Southern U.S. (as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau):

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Delaware (yes, really)
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

We’re based in Arkansas and can’t be everywhere at once, so we invite you to submit a story. We want to share the stories of everyday Black people making moves down South – from farmers and other entrepreneurs to clergy and corporate executives.

Tell us what’s good.